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Offences involving violence

This content applies to England

Legal remedies available in the case of offences involving violence against persons or property .

Violence can be an isolated incident, or may form part of a campaign of harassment, antisocial behaviour and/or illegal eviction. It may be possible to use the remedies outlined below in conjunction with those listed elsewhere in this section.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

This Act gives police the power to arrest without a warrant where they suspect an offence has been committed or attempted and there are reasonable grounds for believing that an arrest is necessary.[1] They also have the power to make an arrest and to take action in order to protect a 'vulnerable person'.[2] The Act also gives the police the power to stop and search a suspected perpetrator (or her/his vehicle) if there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that s/he is carrying stolen or prohibited items.[3] Prohibited items include offensive weapons and/or any item made or adapted for use in connection with certain offences (including burglary and theft),[4] and can be seized.[5] It also allows for the entry and search of premises in some circumstances.[6]

Public Order Act 1986

This Act governs public order offences such as affray[7] (where a person threatens unlawful violence which would cause a reasonable person to fear for her/his safety) and violent disorder[8] (where three or more persons use or threaten violence which would cause a reasonable person to fear for her/his safety). Where three or more perpetrators use (or threaten to use) unlawful violence, each of the perpetrators is guilty of violent disorder.[9]

The Act also aims to combat racial hatred by introducing a number of offences, including using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and/or displaying any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress.[10]

Criminal Law Act 1977

This Act creates an arrestable offence where a person 'without lawful authority' uses violence in an attempt to secure entry to premises while there is someone on the premises who is opposed to the entry.[11] The right to possession of the premises does not give 'lawful authority' to a landlord.[12] It is also an offence to threaten to use violence in any way. The Act applies equally to violence against another person or against the property. Such acts could be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine. Landlords committing such an offence on or after 6 April 2017 may also be subject to a rent repayment order.

Trespassers (eg squatters) can use this Act in some circumstances, but the offence does not apply if the person forcing entry is a displaced residential occupier (DRO), a protected intending occupier (PIO) or someone acting on her/his behalf.[13] See the section on Squatters for more information.

Criminal Damage Act 1971

This Act creates a number of arrestable offences, including:

  • destroying or damaging property belonging to someone else[14]
  • damaging any property (including the perpetrator's own property) with the intention of endangering the life of another person[15]
  • possession of equipment that the perpetrator intends to use to destroy or damage property and/or to damage any property (including her/his own property) with the intention of endangering the life of another person
  • arson.[16]

The Act also makes threatening to cause this type of damage an arrestable offence.[17]

Offences against the Person Act 1861 and Criminal Justice Act 1988

This Act created a number of arrestable offences including:

  • common assault,[18] which can involve a range of violent acts including pushing, slapping, hitting, or inciting a dog to attack a person
  • actual bodily harm,[19] such as where a person is assaulted and suffers bodily hurt or injury, which interferes with her/his health or comfort. A visible physical injury is not necessary; pain or tenderness is sufficient. Actual bodily harm can also include shock or other nervous conditions
  • grievous bodily harm and malicious wounding.[20] Wounding is an assault with or without a weapon, whereby the skin is broken. Grievous bodily harm occurs where the perpetrator caused, or intended to cause serious injury, or did something deliberate which caused the person to be injured.

Any offence under this act should be reported to the police and is punishable by imprisonment.

Assaults under these Acts, criminal damage and harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 can all be treated as racially or religiously aggravated crimes, in which event they will carry higher sentences than would otherwise be the case.[21]

There are further offences of violence or disorder that may arise in the housing context but those summarised above are the most likely to arise.

[1] s.24 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as amended by Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

[2] s.25 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

[3] s.1(3) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

[4] s.1(8) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

[5] s.1(6) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

[6] s.8 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

[7] s.3 Public Order Act 1986.

[8] s.2 Public Order Act 1986

[9] s.2 Public Order Act 1986.

[10] s.4A(1) Public Order Act 1986.

[11] s6(1) Criminal Law Act 1977.

[12] s6(2) Criminal Law Act 1977.

[13] s.6(1A) Criminal Law Act 1977.

[14] s.1(1) Criminal Law Act 1971.

[15] s.1(2) Criminal Law Act 1971.

[16] s.1(3) Criminal Damage Act 1971.

[17] s.2 Criminal Damage Act 1971.

[18] s.39 Criminal Justice Act 1988.

[19] s.47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

[20] s.20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

[21] s.29 Crime & Disorder Act 1998.

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